Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why Avoid Comparing Microlearning with Instructional Design - Tip #165

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, explains why many good ideas never become successful ventures (paraphrased):

“When we assess an idea, we need to see if the core concept works and has potential to provide solutions and new opportunities. What we often do, however, is compare the new idea immediately to current-day conventions -- to what we know and do today, today’s standards -- that kills the idea even before it shows its true promise.”

Microlearning is undergoing a similar comparison and evaluation today. Most literature on Microlearning compares it to “Recreated World” conditions. Its value is evaluated based on what we know and do today - the principles of traditional instructional design which is rooted in the “Recreated World.”

With the "Recreated World" model, it’s easy for many learning professionals to think of Microlearning simply as “small content” and “chunked content,” delivered in spurts. The main criteria here is the small size of the content. Most think of Microlearning as content.

Our definition of Microlearning (low effort, easy, fast, quick to apply and *useful) does not fall into the patterns of traditional instructional design. In many cases, there is a conflict of understanding and application with traditional instructional design and Microlearning.

These types of comments tell us that a person has compared Microlearning with traditional design standards:
  • “How do you know they are learning?”
  • “Learners will miss a lot of information.”
  • “They need to pass a test to show retention.”
  • “Who should say what is the correct micro content to learn?”
  • "Where is the change in behavior?"

By shifting the focus of Microlearning initiatives from recreated worlds to the real world, we can begin to explore the opportunities that Microlearning principles provide.  When we do this, we will change the playing field and do justice to the true applications of Microlearning.

With this shift of focus towards the real world, Microlearning will yield these disruptive results:
  • Lower content development costs
  • Faster answers and solutions
  • Higher usefulness of content and solutions
  • Easier to launch and maintain
  • Higher levels of experience-based learning


Vance, A. (2017) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and a Quest for Fantastic Future
Jimenez, R. Old Instructional Design Does Not Work in Microlearning
*We added usefulness to the definition of Theo Hug on Microlearning

Related Tips

Tip #124 - Are Instructional Designers Incapable of Microlearning Design?
Tip #127 - 3 Strategies for Sure-Fire Microlearning Success
Tip #135 - Learning by SNIFFING: Are Learners Really Distracted or Are They Learning Differently?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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